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Seat belt use and compensation after a car accident

Recently in Decatur, a tragic accident occurred when the left rear wheel of an SUV came off, which apparently led to the driver losing control of the vehicle. Police reported that the driver and the front seat passenger weren’t wearing seat belts. The front seat passenger was ejected from the vehicle and pronounced dead on the scene. The driver, along with three other passengers sitting in the back, have so far survived; they all required hospitalization for internal injuries.

It’s long been established that seat belt use saves lives. In most cases, getting ejected from a vehicle results in death or non-fatal but otherwise permanent injuries, including trauma to the brain; with seat belt use, we see a significantly reduced chance of these outcomes. This doesn’t mean that seat belts offer 100% injury prevention across all kinds of accidents; but they do play a critical role in protecting drivers and passengers.

Do you need help seeking compensation after a car accident?

In spite of the known benefits of the seat belts and the laws requiring seat belt use, if you weren’t wearing one, does that mean you can’t seek to recover damage from an insurance company or ask for compensation after a car accident?

In Indiana, the use of seat belts generally isn’t considered a factor in accident fault or in determining how much compensation or damages you can seek. For instance, if you weren’t responsible for the crash occurring (e.g. you didn’t speed, run a red light, etc.), you should be able to ask for compensation regardless of whether or not you were wearing a seat belt.

Insurance companies should not be able to deny your claim based on seat belt use. In civil claims, your seat belt use also shouldn’t be introduced as a factor determining fault. However, there are some cases where failure to use a seat belt could be introduced as a way to reduce the amount of damages awarded. For example, if you’re filing a claim against an automobile manufacturer for a certain defect in the vehicle, in some cases they might argue that your failure to make use of the vehicle’s safety features means that their liability is less than what you claim.

We urge you to use a seat belt when driving; it really can mean the difference between life and death. When you contact experienced Indianapolis car accident lawyers, seat belt use might be one of the issues that comes up during the discussion (and sometimes there are problems with the seat belt itself that caused it to malfunction when it was supposed to protect you). But regardless of whether or not you were properly restrained in your seat, you shouldn’t be discouraged from seeking compensation for your injuries.

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